When Missouri GOP Senate candidate Eric Greitens ran an ad in which he held a shotgun and said he was going on a “RINO hunt”—a conservative acronym for “Republican in name only”—Greitens didn’t seem to consider how the ad could backfire.
Liberals would be confused, of course, but that’s kind of the point when you’re in a primary GOP in a state that Donald Trump won by 15 points.
What Greitens did not foresee, however, was that Trump and his team might also be disturbed — and that an ad with the violent undertones of Jan. 6 could be all the more reason for the former president to stay away from supporting a former governor who had to resign after allegations of sexual assault.
For now, Trumpworld is watching with great interest how Greitens is handling the controversy, sources told The Daily Beast.
While Greitens’ campaign chairman and MAGA leader Kimberly Guilfoyle is “all-in,” according to sources familiar with the matter, Trump’s outspoken son and highly influential Trumpwold linchpin — Donald Trump Jr. – That involved to Guilfoyle, has yet to back a candidate in the race.
“While Don has expressed himself as a fan of Greitens, in fact he thinks the best move for his dad is strategic to just sit back and let the primary unfold without jumping in for anyone,” said a source who is familiar with Don Jr. .’s thinking about the primary told The Daily Beast.
“The only thing that would change his mind would be if… [Mitch] McConnell decided to intervene in the primary and set off millions against Greitens,” the source added.
McConnell mostly stays out of it, though he did tell reporters on Wednesday that the RINO hunt ad was “something Republican voters need in the first place.”
As for Trump himself, he’s not eager to jump right in and support one or the other candidate at the moment, a source said.
While sitting out the primaries all together is an option, those who spoke with Trump say the 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner also wants to avoid a repeat of the 2021 Virginia governor race, when Trump never approved it, and GOP- rising star Glenn Youngkin took the governor’s house in an increasingly blue state.
With Trump on the sidelines, some Trump allies seem to believe it’s an open season on Greitens. His troubled past, marked by accusations of beating his ex-wife and children – and being accused of invading privacy after threatening an ex-lover with revenge porn – is unimaginable, these sources said.
“This behavior included physical violence toward our children, such as handcuffing our then 3-year-old son at the dinner table in front of me and pulling his hair around,” said Greitens’ ex-wife Sheena, a university. professor, said under oath in 2018.
Greitens’ ex-wife accused Greitens of… domestic violence in a lawsuit and promised to use his recent controversial campaign ad in their ongoing divorce proceedings.
There is “no need for Eric Greitens to be in public life,” an influential Trumpworld figure told The Daily Beast, suggesting the candidate take some time off and sort out his personal life.
Certain Trumpworld figures also weigh in on how nominating Greitens could affect the GOP’s chances of taking back the Senate.
His most recent incendiary television ad, combined with his well-documented personal baggage, leaves open a possibility that a Democratic candidate could beat Greitens overall if he won the GOP nomination.
That possibility was one that the Greitens campaign almost mocked.
“If these clowns really believe that Governor Greitens should not be a candidate, why is he leading the field by a mile in recent public polls? What does that say about their preferred candidates?” Greitens campaign manager Dylan Johnson told The Daily Beast. “These swamp creatures and crooks know their time at the trough is over. That is why they are afraid of America First champion Governor Greitens.”
Opinion polls in the embattled race support that claim.
a june poll by means of The hill and Emerson College found that 26 percent of primary voters supported Greitens, beating his closest opponent by 6 points. Yet 27 percent of voters remained remarkably undecided.
Missouri’s leading GOP candidates all know that the former president’s seal of approval could be the difference-maker in a crowded primary field. The Greiten campaign isn’t the only campaign fighting for Trump’s approval; they’ve all taken steps to get closer to the coveted kink.
The firm of KA Consulting, which has long been a close confidant of Trump Kellyanne Conway, is working with Representative Billy Long (R-MO), who is so pro-Trump that he often walks around Capitol Hilll with novelty “45 dollar bills” in his jacket pocket, commemorating the 45th president. Long came perilously close to an approval in March when Trump insisted voters to take another look at the congressman’s campaign, who had been to fade in the polls.
“This is not endorsement,” Trump wrote in his statement at the time, calling Long “big, loud and proud.” The former president added, “I’m just asking?”
The Long campaign paid Conway’s KA Consulting, LLC nearly $200,000 between July 2021 and March, according to: federal disclosures for “campaign advice,” with the main one-time payment coming in August as poll and research expenses for about $60,000.
Another major contender, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, sought a classic way to win Trump’s favor: holding a fundraiser in Mar-A-Lago. An event in March for his campaign raised $1.5 million North, Schmitt told the local press†
and Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a conservative staunch in the House, gained the support of the state’s best-known MAGA loyalist, Senator Josh Hawley — and Hawley even spoke out against Greitens.
“If you hit a woman or a child, you belong in handcuffs, not the United States Senate. It’s time for Eric Greitens to leave this race,” Hawley wrote back in March on Twitter.
While countless candidates have pulled the strings to influence a possible endorsement of Trump in the race, the Greitens campaign declined to predict whether Trump would back their candidate.
“President Trump’s endorsement is the most powerful in political history. There is only one America First candidate in this race who has championed the movement and President Trump from day 1, and that person is Governor Greitens,” Johnson said.
A Trump spokesperson did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
While Greitens has opponents in Trumpworld, he does have some Trumpword allies. Former Trump special aides Steven Cheung and Borris Epsten are both with Greitens, as are some of Bannon’s allies. For a while, Greitens’ payroll also included Taylor Budowich, now Trump’s communications director.
Between last June and January of this year, the Greitens campaign paid $35,000 in consultancy fees to Budowich’s company, Conservative Strategies, according to federal data reviewed by The Daily Beast. Company registration documents with the State of California list Budowich as the sole officer of Conservative Strategies.
As the mess in Missouri unfolded, the Senate GOP leadership in Washington has assiduously avoided addressing Greitens’ string of scandals and provocations, perhaps hoping his candidacy would fade and the problem would resolve itself.
In March, McConnell sidestepped questions about whether Grietens should drop out after new details about his alleged domestic violence were made public. All he said was that Missouri voters would “take into account” those details.
On Wednesday, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), chairman of the GOP Senate official campaign department, told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast he “didn’t see” Greitens’ incendiary video that dominated the news discourse on Tuesday.
When pressed for the video, Scott said he didn’t believe “we should be promoting violence.” Further, Scott refused to weigh. “I think Missouri will make a good choice,” he said. “Whoever they choose will be a Republican senator from Missouri.”
When later asked if he had personally spoken to Trump about Greitens, Scott joked that the ex-president normally doesn’t listen to his advice about not sanctioning primaries.
“My advice, as you know, is not something he probably does all the time,” Scott said. “That is, it would be nice if no one approved it.”
Sam Brodey and Roger Sollenberger contributed to this report.